|BANG! Not a cherry bomb, but part of the same genus explosiva. Count to five; right on time: click click click click, the dog’s nails on the wooden steps, coming up for comfort. One firework will give him an hour of tsuris. When they’re spaced every minute or two, it’s torture. BANG! again. From across the street. Dang kids, I think. Dang ‘em! Why I oughta, etc. After two or three more explosions I went outside to see what they were doing, and it seemed they were blowing up toys in the time-honored matter of kids who have exhausted all possible summertime activities and must now amuse themselves by destroying small plastic items long passed from favor. But here’s your Darwin Award moment: one kid was lighting the fuse with a butane grill lighter, a device with a trigger and a long barrel. Just about the most imprecise and inapt thing you’d use on a cheap Chinese fuse, no? It gets better: the thing wouldn’t light, which is common – I’ve had a few, and they’re as dependable as (fill in your most reviled governmental agency entrusted with the care and safety of the citizens of New Orleans here). Another kid, deducing that the wind might have an impact on ignition failure – it was gusting at about 30 feet per hour, after all – scuttled over, crouched down around the object in which the firework had been placed, and cupped his hands over it to shield the lighter. Whoo boy.
One of those afternoons where you keep the dog on a leash, because you expect a finger to fall from the heavens onto your patio bricks, and you don’t want him to get to it first.
Perfect weekend, all told; Saturday’s main attraction was one of the more ill-tempered storms I’ve seen in a while. It circled round and round and beat us up, stopped, sneered, kicked us again, stumbled off muttering and rumbling, then came back again with shots of white lightning whose appearance was, shall we say, contemporaneous with concussive thunder. It’s one of those lessons in chance – you spend your life hearing thunder, and maybe once a year it strikes somewhere close enough where you don’t get to two-one-thousand before your eardrums detach and flap like windowshades. Then of course there are the stories of people who get hit by bolts once a week, and are used to it in a sad and damned sort of way; summer means a big sparkly sluice from above, and they can’t see the first buds of spring without recaling what it feels like to have your toenails shoot through your shoes and stick in the drywall, smoking.
I suppose I could google about for tales of people who’ve been struck, or sites that debunk the tales of such people, but really, do I have to? What sort of obligation does one have to flesh out every single casual remark with a link? I was thinking about this last night while watching “Advise and Consent,” a fine DC political-intrigue film from 1962. A character goes to a gay bar, and there’s a Sinatra tune playing. You wonder what he thought of it, whether it drove him nuts, or he didn’t mind at all. You think: I could probably find out if I googled around. Or if I just said something about it and waited for someone to drop me a line. But on the other hand, who cares what Sinatra thought about it? At some point, you realize that the Internet’s promise of instant access to any fact can be rather annoying, since you feel obligated to find out the answers to the most banal or useless question. How often do manatees ovulate? Which unsung industrial designer invented the Pez dispenser? Or, that one nagging question, what was I thinking? I hate to plug that one into Google for fear it’ll tell me.
Anyway, it’s a good movie if you like to watch white men in good suits frown for two hours over confirmation hearings. And I do, I guess; I found it interesting not only as a period piece but as a drama. In 1962, the Senate has one female member. Who else?
The chair recognizes Sue Ann Nivens from the great state of Two-faced High Bitchery! What really stands out these days, though, is the few signs of old DC culture: A Senator takes the streetcar to work.
That’s Charles Laughton playing a Suhthn politician, a Strom Byrd type. He’s the best thing about the movie; the jowly chilly hauteur and sullen ugliness that usually suffuses his performances is absent here, replaced with his other strong suit, charming calm genteel malice.
Here’s Walter Pidgeon, Senate Majority leader: he takes the cab.
Ah well. No more.
I’m downtown at a Dunn Bros’ now; had to go to the office and rearrange my new desk. Got moved again, as the great office upheaval seems over. I have opted for a minimal approach to desk decoration; I no more want stuff cluttering up the desk than I want pebbles in my slippers. The cluttered office is one of those things that always plagued me in the past – the reams of clips and handouts, the kitsch atop the monitor, bales of letters and sheaves of curling faxes, the grotesque amount of stuff generated simply by sitting a cubicle in a substantial corporation. What I like and need and want to keep goes home. At work from now on it’s just Gnat picts and plastic Pixar statuary. I was putting up the WW2 propaganda posters, the stuff I put up after 9/11, but I thought better of it. That was back when I thought we were all in this together. Back before 9/11 was supplanted by 9/12. But that’s another essay.
The music here is “free-form jazz,” which appears to be several heroin addicts chasing a melody glimpsed in a hallucination. Now I’m off to eat something and then join a blog party; more later.
And now it is later. Home, kitchen table. The Minnesota Organization of Blogs party was a treat – got a fine table outside with several of my favorite heel-clicking brain-pithed BushCo Robot DeathBeasts. And hey kids, I’m living proof you don’t have to drink to have fun! Not that I didn’t want to have a wee nip, but when I’m driving not an atom of Satan’s Balm passes my lips. The best conversations, as ever, were with the autodidacts, the people who’ve made their own eclectic connections between this and that and the other thing, and keep adding to their storehouse. I can’t imagine what my brain would feel like if I’d gone to grad school, spent half my time trying to screw small wet chunks of literature into the ears of undergrads and the other half researching some misbegotten thesis whose impenetrability was matched only by its utter uselessness in the world beyond. In the real realm it’s different. It’s always amazing to learn what people do for a living, and what they know. Has nothing to do with money or class; it has to do with that fortuitous combination of intellectual hunger, a large supply of tinder that catches fire when two odd things rub together and cast sparks, and a mindset nearly identical to mine in values and fascinations. Now THOSE people are worth talking to. Everyone else can go to hell.
Sorry; felt windy sanctimony coming on, and had to do my part to resist.
I left earlier than I would have wished, because I had to write a column. Drove home my favorite way: down the freeway, at night, very fast, listening to the Tune of the Moment. (Tonight it’s the Axe Gang’s Dance from “Kung Fu Hustle,” which is the GREATEST MOVIE EVER MADE IN THE HISTORY OF THE UNIVERSE.) Got home to find Wife and Gnat making desserts for the Labor Day bash at the Crazy Ukes’. They had spent the day at the Renaissance Festival, and my wife was still shuddering over the event. I did a story on the event almost ten years ago, and while it had its annoying aspects, it was a rather benign and gentle thing. Apparently it’s changed, and now it’s full of louts and Goths and lewdenesse; half-naked Creative Anachronism types happy to unfurl their great white guts for all to see, fleshy snaggle-toothed watermelon-jugged exhibitionists in costumes more appropriate for a bar called The Teatery, theatrical bits full of cheap single-entendres, grim meat-shops that swapped a fiver for a jot of pale stringy meat and an indifferent shrug. All this and ankle-deep mud in the parking lot. At least it’s authentic.
“It’s how people lived in the olden days,” Gnat explained to me. “I rode an elephant and a llama!”
Just like the Renaissance.
(New Sunday Column, if you missed it; new Match; brief Screed and site update Tuesday.)